I Believe in Second Chances

In the most incarcerated city in the most incarcerated state in the most incarcerated country in the world, a freed man just rescued his new best friend. John Floyd was a man locked up for a murder conviction that was thrown out, after 36 and a half years. Maddy, a Jack Russell Terrier, was a stray who was locked up at Vermillion Parish Animal Shelter. One of my fellow fosters and rescue friends shared this amazing story this morning. It made my day and I think it is worth sharing – one of the Take Paws Rescue dogs was adopted by a man who was just released from prison through The Innocence Project.

“Innocence Project New Orleans frees innocent prisoners, exposes injustice and prevents wrongful convictions. IPNO has won the freedom or exoneration of 29 wrongfully convicted prisoners. These men served over 610 years in Louisiana and Mississippi’s prisons between them.”  John Floyd’s murder conviction was thrown out in June, with the help of The Innocence Project.

Maddy was lucky, she made it out of the kill shelter and into a foster home with Take Paws Rescue. About half of all animals entering shelters are euthanized. Approximately 98,000 pets are put to death every year in Louisiana.

Maddy’s foster wrote:

“Who better to understand the anxiety, loneliness and fear of being unfairly locked up and taken away from society than a fellow prisoner?  John Floyd was an innocent man in Angola Prison for 36 years. He missed his animals more than anything during that time. Now, with nothing but love and courage in his heart, he has moved on and has adopted one of our babies, Maddy the JRT! It was one of our most unusual apps, but we did our research and feel like Maddy will be in the most loving competent care. They can heal each other and share a mutual appreciation of a second chance.”

John Floyd worked with bloodhounds and other animals at Angola. His story was covered in The Advocate.

John Floyd, freed from Angola State Penitentiary, starts over after 36 years

Part of starting over, for John, was rescuing a dog. He was looking for one similar to the dogs that he cared for during his time at Angola. Maddy, the Jack Russell Terrier that he has adopted, was a stray with an unknown past. They are starting over together. We wish them best of everything.

 

 

We Need More Mya

I wish I had this problem – Mya needs to gain weight. At 12.4lbs, she is overly thin. You can see her ribs clearly. She has sores from her bones rubbing where she sits; there is no muscle or fat to cushion her.

She was found darting through traffic. We don’t know how long she was stray, but we do know that she wasn’t getting enough to eat. This poor girl came to me with a heavy load of heartworms, ear infections, and a spot on her head that could be demodex or ringworm. We have treated her ears, given her her first set of immunizations and a shot for tapeworms, and started her on doxycycline to start in on those heartworms. We gave her a lyme sulphur dip. It stinks, but we are getting her healthy. We are hopeful that her heartworm load is not the reason that she is so thin. She’s not coughing and she’s active; those are good signs. I will be watching over her carefully. She is affectionate and follows us everywhere we go. I am certain that if you can heal with love, she will be just fine.

As you can see from her photos, Mya is underweight.

If you have a dog that needs to gain weight, please consult with you veterinarian. There are a number of health issues that should be considered if your dog is underweight. In Mya’s case, we are hoping that her heartworm load is not to blame. Part of getting Mya healthy overall, will be getting weight on her, and improving her nutrition.

I am more careful with my dog’s weights than I am with my own. (I feed myself things that I would never feed them.) I never feed dogs from the table, and the only people food they get is very intentional and healthy. While I am trying to lose weight (and who isn’t?) I’m trying to safely put weight on Mya. Mya and I both need to be mindful of what we eat.

My goal: healthier snacking.

For Mya: Start with quality dog food. We have added pumpkin and sweet potato to Mya’s EarthBorn Naturals kibble. We have given her salmon, chicken, rice, and peanut butter. The idea is not to simply add calories, but to add nutrition so that she gains weight gradually and keeps it on. Quickly adding too many calories, or too much fat, might lead to digestive upsets such as vomiting and/or diarrhea. Contact your vet immediately if your dog loses their appetite, vomits, has diarrhea or becomes lethargic.

I feed my dogs at 6am and 6pm, but Mya will need smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Just like on my own “diet”, Mya will be better able to digest and metabolize her food with smaller portion sizes. We also both need moderate exercise. While I need it to burn calories and stress, Mya needs exercise to build muscle and increase her appetite. I don’t particularly have to go out of my way to exercise her though. There are 5 other dogs here that she plays with. They all run around so much that I don’t worry about any of them lacking exercise!

The main thing Mya and I have in common in our diets is a need for healthy snacking. I tend too reach for sugary snacks throughout the day, and I am focusing on healthier options such as fruits and nuts. Mya needs a high-calorie, high fat, and nutrient dense snack. I am preparing a recipe from The Honest Kitchen which mixes 1 lb  of cooked ground meat,  a dozen scrambled eggs, 1C ground flaxseed, 1C cooked oatmeal,  1 8oz package of cream cheese, 1 C of peanut butter, and 1T molasses. Combine everything and make small balls (the size depends on the size of dog you are working with). Freeze the balls on a cookie sheet and store in airtight containers. They can be thawed as needed, and fed to your dog no more than 3 times daily.

Mya is such a joy to have at The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs. She is house trained, good in her crate, comes and goes from the house with the pack. She is not food motivated, so I’m glad that she has good manners and doesn’t need much in the way of training. Mya will be with us for awhile as she gets healthy. Her heartworm treatment will take months. I couldn’t ask for a sweeter long-term guest.

 

Adopt a Dog 101 – Are You Really Ready?

Before you adopt a dog, make sure you are ready for a dog. That sounds blindingly obvious, but it still bears repeating. Think about why are you adopting a dog? Are you making a purely emotional decision? You might be like me and walk past a group of puppies that need homes, so you grab one (Ollie) and bring it home with you without much thought*. I don’t recommend this, even if it did work out for my family (mostly because my wonderful husband did all of the thinking about consequences). Impulsively adopting a puppy is how I started out in rescue, and it was a great experience. However, I’ve seen a lot of dogs that this didn’t work out for, dogs that were subsequently abandoned, given away, or dropped off at a shelter when things didn’t work out. If you let emotions make the decision, you very well might adopt a dog that isn’t right for you or your family. Save yourself, and the poor dog, from an unhappy ending by thoroughly thinking ahead now.

*I have changed my ways. I carefully consider the addition of each dog that comes into our home now. If I didn’t, we would have 37 puppies, 3 pregnant dogs, 7 seniors, 2 blind and deaf dogs, and a mini pig at The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs.

Adopt a Dog 101……there are some important questions to ask yourself:

Is the whole family on board? 

-Do you or any of your household/family members have allergies or health issues that may be negatively affected by a dog?

-Is anyone in the home intolerant of potty accidents, shedding, barking, muddy paws, wet-dog smell? Stress in the home can exacerbate health and behavior problems in a dog. Dogs are very perceptive. If there is resentment, they will feel it.

-Is there an adult in your family who is willing to be responsible for the dog’s care? Ask yourself who is going to do the dog walking, feeding, and taking the dog to vet appointments? Seriously, who is going to scoop the poop?

-Do you have any other dogs or cats or pigs… and how will they react to a new pet?

 

Which dog should you adopt?

This is really important. Somewhere out there is the perfect dog for you, (or at least one whose flaws you can tolerate with a smile). If you are lucky enough to be adopting a dog from a foster home, you can find out a lot about the dog before you even meet it. Yay for fosters!

Please, please ask yourself – What are you hoping to get from the dog? In other words, why do you want to adopt?

-What do you expect the dog to contribute to your life? Are you looking for an easy-going couch potato buddy, or do you want a running/hiking buddy? Long, ambling walks on the beach? Or fetch in the backyard? My advice: choose a dog with an energy level equal to or lower than your own. If you generally just want to chill in front of the tv, and you have a dog that wants to run and play, you will have a frustrated dog. A bored dog can be destructive. Then again, if you are very active, and you get a dog that just wants to lie around all day, you are going to be frustrated. You want to find a dog that fits you and your life.

The breed is not the dog, but do consider the characteristics of the breed. Do a little research; what breed of dog would be the best fit with your lifestyle.

-Do you need a dog who will be gentle with and tolerant of small children? Some dogs are better with littles than others.

-Would a younger or older dog would be a better match for you? If you are thinking of adopting a puppy, do you have the time and patience to work with the dog through potty training, teething and chewing, and basic obedience training?

Would you consider a senior dog? Seniors dogs in a shelter are just so sad. Maybe their owner died, or maybe they were given up by an owner that cannot afford their health care needs. In the shelter they get overlooked for the cute little puppies. I love puppies, but puppies can be a real pain in the ass. A senior dog is often calm and easygoing. They may need less exercise, but can be great couch buddies. They will almost certainly need more health care than a younger dog – and purchasing new insurance for an older dog can be cost prohibitive.

 

 

Once you know the dog that you are looking for, breed, age, size, etc., consider fostering a dog. That way if a dog is perfect, you foster fail and adopt it. YAY! If you decide that this particular dog isn’t a match for you, you have learned more about what will and will not work for you and you try another one. Your foster will be the perfect dog for someone else, and you will feel great about helping the dog and its new family connect.  Fostering is a wonderfully rewarding way to find whether you’re ready to take on a new dog, without fully committing. The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs has had 25 foster dogs so far, and now I know all about different breeds and temperaments, what I can live with, and what drives me crazy. There was one that I couldn’t live without (Bailey), so we adopted him.

So, now that you have an idea of which dog might be right for you and your family, consider how well you can schedule a dog into your life?

-How will your work obligations and your social life affect your ability to care for a dog?

-Dogs need to be fed two to three times a day, and need to be routinely let outside for potty breaks and play/exercise. A puppy can’t hang out in a crate for 8 or more hours without a potty break. You will need someone to let the puppy out often. A young dog with an abundance of energy requires more exercise and training than an older more sedentary couch potato dog.

-Dogs with long coats may need 15 to 20 minutes a day of brushing to prevent matting. You can count on a lot more time spent vacuuming a home with a long haired breed. A single Siberian husky blew my mind when it came to shedding. I loved Sasha dearly, but her shedding was a lot of work!

-You should plan to spend at least one hour per day giving direct attention (training, exercising, grooming, and playing) to your dog(s).  If your life is so over-scheduled with work and kids that you don’t have an hour to spare, then you do not have time for a new dog.

-Puppies adjust to a new home rather easily, but older adopted dogs may need additional bonding and reassurance time in the early weeks or months in their new home.

-Do you travel for work? Vacation often? Will you take the dog with you when you travel? How big of a dog can you travel comfortably with?

If you are thinking of adopting a dog, think of it like adding a family member. Adopting a puppy = having a baby. Adopting an adult dog = maybe your friendly mother-in-law is moving in. Adopting a senior = welcome grandma! It means your life priorities are going to need some adjustments. Puppies have potty accidents, dogs bark, seniors have vet bills, etc, etc. If you are about to welcome a new family member, and you have a beach trip coming up but grandma isn’t welcome, then no beach trip. You are going on a cruise in a few weeks? Nope, not a good time to leave grandma in a cage with a stranger feeding her. Do you get my subtle point here? I see this all too often. People make a snap decision to adopt a dog, but they haven’t thought about all of the other stuff going on in their lives and the fact that the new family member needs to be considered. Whether you are welcoming a puppy or a 4 year old or a senior dog into your home, the dog needs time to adjust, feel safe, and learn your rules. I have seen a puppy returned because it peed on the floor and a dog left at a shelter because the family got a new sofa. The puppy just needed patience and more training. If your dog is chewing furniture, it needs training, not euthanization.

Whether a dog is coming from a shelter, or has been through a shelter and then a foster home, they need a calm and consistent environment after you bring them into your home. They need time to decompress. They also need for you to teach them the rules of the house. If you fail to do that, the dog will ultimately fail you, (and maybe chew your couch). The environment we bring a dog into is very important for a successful experience. Are you prepared to provide a dog with a structured life that has rules, and consistent boundaries? This is important. Dogs do not often come to you pre-trained. Can you train and handle a dog with behavior issues? Are you willing to take the dog to a trainer if necessary. Can you afford that?

What does it cost to have a dog?

Adopting a dog requires a financial commitment to the animal’s health and well-being.  Please, sit down and think about what a dog is going to cost. Its not just food and toys, there are vet bills, and yes, the cost of boarding a dog while you are on vacation (at some point in the future, when your dog is fully adjusted to your home). There seem to be a lot of costs that people overlook or do not expect. I’ve tried to provide a comprehensive list for you. This is taken from Petfinder.com

Expenses in the first year  *estimates based on a survey of pet parents around the country-may be higher/lower depending on where you live and the dog you adopt.

Adoption $0-500
-The rescue or shelter will charge a fee to help defray the cost of taking in homeless animals. The dog will be up to date on immunizations and neutered or spayed if it is old enough.

Food $120-500

Nutritional Supplements $0-100

Food/water bowls $10-40

Treats $20-200

Dental/chew toys $20-200

Routine veterinary exam $45-200

Vaccinations $60-150

Emergency veterinary care $0-2,000+
-These are unexpected costs: Accidents and illness can result in costly emergency veterinary care. Consider pet insurance.

Heartworm test $0-35

Heart worm prevention $24-120

Fecal exams $10-30

Worming $10-25

Flea/Tick prevention $200-500

Spaying/neutering $35-200

Professional teeth cleaning $60-500

Collar(s) $7-50

Leash(es) $10-50

Training $30-250

Grooming tools $20-250

Professional grooming $0-1,200

Shampoo $5-50

Fence $0-2500

Stain/odor removers $10-100

Doggy bed(s) $25-100

Crate(s) $20-250

Toys $10-200

Boarding, per day $15-50

TOTAL IN THE 1st YEAR:  $766-$10,350

Are there things in this list that you hadn’t considered? It all adds up.

Ok, now that I've said all of that, please adopt a dog. It is a wonderful experience -  Just do it in an informed way.

Are you actually ready for a dog?

Well, life has been a whirlwind of sorts since Harvey arrived and left. New Orleans was prepared for the worst and we ended up with a non-event. That is great; it allows us to help out our neighbors in western Louisiana and TX. I am not a member of the Cajun Navy, and we don’t have a boat, but we do what we can and we support those doing more than we can!

One of the rescues that we are proud to work with, Take Paws, has joined forces with The Inner Pup to help as many dogs as possible in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.  Determined to leave no dog behind, they reacted to shelters being evacuated because of flooding by building a new one. Among others, they have taken in five pregnant dogs that were being shuffled around because of the storm. Volunteers are working diligently to give these stressed dogs a safe place where they will be cared for until they can find their forever homes. Thank God for the people that step up. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With so many dogs needing homes, 
how do you decide if bringing a 
dog home is right for your family? 

After a crazy summer with 8 to 9 dogs in the house at a time, we had finally scaled down to a more reasonable 5. It was nice. It was easy. But rescuing is what I love doing, so I chose to help out by taking in more foster dogs. We took in Murray, our yellow lab from Ascension Parish, and 8-week-old lab-mix puppies, Marshall and Rocky, from Nola Lab Rescue. We also took in Lewis, our adorable dachshund-mix pup from Zeus Rescues. Lewis was evacuated from flooding in St. Landry Parish. He was one of several transports of dogs and cats that Zeus’s took in. I went to their facility to pick a dog to foster. I was just about to grab a little black lab puppy when Lewis caught my eye. He gave me a pleeeaase take me home with you look, and it worked. So, woohoo, 9 dogs again, and rain, and mud! What fun! 🙂

 

If you are considering fostering or adopting a dog, how do you know if you are ready? What should you do to get ready?

You may picture yourself snuggling up with a puppy on the couch, taking long walks, playing fetch. You will have all of that, but there are other things that you need to be prepared for as well– pee, poo, and muddy paws, even worms. There are unexpected veterinary costs. There is begging for food and teething, and sometimes chewed shoes or furniture. Dogs have personalities and needs that you may not expect.  Today we had one adopted dog returned and one about to be adopted dog left behind because it wasn’t going too work out. If you or someone that you know are thinking about getting a dog, see below.

The little puppies that we took in, Rocky and Marshall, were scared of the big dogs when they first arrived, so we set them up in a pen in a separate room and over two days we slowly brought in one dog at a time to meet them while they adjusted to life in a new place away from their momma. By day 3, they were fully integrated into the pack. It just took a little time and patience. Puppies require a lot of work – and potty training – but they are also so much fun! They snuggle up on you and make everything in the world ok. I highly recommend fostering and adopting  puppies; just have lots of paper towels and Lysol wipes on hand, be prepared to take them outside often, and praise them like it’s a miracle if they pee or poo on the grass. Don’t feed them from the table if you don’t want to face years of a dog begging at the table. Set limits and be consistent.

Young puppies are little and cute. Its easy to forgive their little transgressions.  Murray is a big puppy. He looks like a full grown Lab at 45 lbs. but still behaves like a puppy. He is less than a year old. Labrador Retrievers are basically puppies for their first three years. They are active, teething, and testing limits. They are also very intelligent, trainable, loyal companions. They are worth the effort. You just have to know what you are getting into. Know the breed and be prepared. It takes patience. It’s like having children (that don’t talk back, but do pee on the floor). Just like you have to be prepared to welcome a new baby home, you have to be prepared to welcome a new dog. I am constantly amazed by people who abandon their dogs at the shelter because they have too many potty accidents (you have to train them), chew on furniture (give them appropriate chew toys, and train them), chase chickens (OMG, they are dogs, check your breed if you have chickens!). My personal favorite is, “we are having a baby next week, this dog has to go now” (hello, most dogs are great with babies, very loving and protective, but they are NEVER disposable family members). Most dog issues can be fixed with training, and it is not difficult to do. It requires consistency and a little patience, just like good parenting.

Today is Saturday, Rocky and Marshall were both adopted at the end of the week, but Marshall has just returned to the Cecchine Hotel for Dogs. Even though we do interviews and check references and do home visits, people are not always prepared for the realities of having a dog. Marshall was returned to us because he had two potty accidents. Two! He is a 9-week-old puppy who was in a brand new place. Accidents happen. He has been working very hard on potty training, but he is still learning. So, back he comes. We have another potential adopter excited to meet him on Sunday. Paws crossed.

This morning it was Murray’s turn to meet potential adopters. He was so excited! Murray’s potential adopter was very excited to meet him too. She has an 11-year-old Lab and two 8-year-old Shitzus and she is ready for a younger dog to join her pack. She spent about an hour at The Cecchine Hotel for Dogs, but left without Murray. He is an eager, excited, active, big puppy. He even peed on the floor in the house and jumped on her just in case she didn’t know what to expect from him. She realized that Murray was going to be too much for her calmer, older dogs. Labs are a handful when they are young. The thing is, she met everybody here, and she and her daughter just fell in love with Lewis, the dachshund-mix. I think he gave her that same pleeeaase take me home with you look. Lewis is around 1 year old, we think, but MUCH calmer than his foster brother Murray. He is great with all of the dogs. He crawled right up onto her lap and kissed her, a lot. It looks like she will apply to adopt Lewis instead. He is here with me at least until he gets neutered next Friday. Paws crossed, he will have a forever home after that! I am going to miss him. He is an awesome dog. We are happy that the family found a dog that will fit with their lifestyle.

We aren’t sad for Murray, we will find him a great home. We will continue to work with him on peeing outside (and we will keep cleaning the carpet). We will love him and care for him as long as he needs us, and we will make sure that his adopters are ready for his level of puppy-ness. He is a great dog. Murray needs an active family that will smile at his little faux pas and help him to become the properly behaved Lab that he can be. He just needs time, patience, and more training.

We may be getting a 4-month-old lab this week who will be adopted by the parents of one of my foster lab adopters! She will be going to North Carolina for her happily ever after in a few weeks. For now she is with another foster.

This is how we help. One dog at a time. It feels great to do it, and I’m happy to share that I have inspired two others to start fostering as well. Be a helper, in whatever way you can. You never know when you will be the one in need of help and it will come back to you.

If you are thinking of getting a dog, be prepared. Be honest with yourself. Are you ready for a very active puppy or does a couch potato better fit your lifestyle? There are plenty of older, calmer dogs who need a home. If you have your heart set on a young dog, ask yourself a few questions.

  • Am I willing to clean up potty accidents? (over-and-over-and-over until they get it…)
  • Am I okay with minor furniture damage? Just like with young kids. Teething dogs and really nice furniture are not a good match.
  • Am I going to freak out if the dog digs up my garden? This can be mitigated in several ways: vigilance, keeping watch and redirecting if digging occurs, and also by burying some poo where they have been digging. They will generally not mess with that area again.
  • Are my kids ready for a teething, jumping puppy? Those little teeth and nails are sharp. Puppies need lots of teething toys. Redirect.
  • Do I have legos and stuffed animals and toys with small pieces in my house? A swallowed piece of Lego can lead to a costly visit to the vet. Dogs don’t know the difference between a favorite child’s toy and a dog toy. You can use baby gates to keep dogs out of children’s play areas.
  • Do I like to vacuum/am I ready for the reality of shedding? Think about the breed. We once had a Siberian Husky that shed as much as 4 or 5 labs.
  • Am I ready to deal with a dog jumping on me? Teaching basic good manners requires persistence and patience. I have a two year old that still jumps on people that she’s happy to see.
  • Do I want to wake up early to take the dog out? Is there an morning person in the house who is willing to do this? Puppies don’t generally sleep in. They will whine and bark because they need to go outside.
  • Am I willing to play with the dog and walk it so that it gets the necessary exercise, even if its raining – freezing – or hotter than hell out? A bored dog or a dog that is crated for too long can turn destructive.
  • Who is going to watch the dog if I travel? Boarding a dog is not cheap and can be stressful for your dog.
  • How much do I think this dog is going to cost? Food, leashes, collars, toys. They have routine vet bills and need monthly preventative medecine and they can be expensive. It’s a good idea to get pet insurance to cover the non-routine, bigger expenses that can pop up.

These are all things to think about. Dogs are a big commitment. They are a part of the family. Think about your lifestyle and how much you are or are not willing to change it for a dog. A pet is a commitment. Are you ready to commit?

If you are, that’s great. If not, that’s okay too. I lived without dogs for a very long time because I was working long hours/ then moving countries too often/ then I had young children. Pets did not fit my lifestyle. They do now. I’m so happy to be settled down in one place with a whole, big, happy pack of dogs!